What To Expect During A Mammogram

A discussion of the process of getting a mammogram including the routine for the tests and interpreting the meaning of the results and findings.

Having a mammography is not fun but it's necessary for women to have the exam on a routine basis. Awareness for the dangers of breast cancer have grabbed the public's attention so that more and more women are having them done on a regular basis.

You may have been to the doctor over a lump that has been discovered or it could be that you're having a mammography strictly to keep an eye on your physical health. Regardless of why you're having a mammography it's good to know that they are not painful but they are a little unpleasant.

A mammography is simply an X-ray of the breasts for detection of tumors or other abnormalities. Since a mammography can detect tumors long before the lump can be felt the benefits are obvious. Cure rates for cancer found by mammography are up in the 90 percentile - much higher than cure rates after finding the lump by touch.


Little preparation need to into a mammography appointment. The physician will schedule the test, at his office or at the hospital. The only planning is to be a few minutes early to fill out any necessary paperwork. Usually the only requests that are made for the patient is that she doesn't wear powders, deodorants or body rubs of any kind since these can cause shadows and other abnormalities of the image. The patient will be asked to wear comfortable clothing that can easily be removed from the waist up.

Do not schedule the mammography if you are pregnant. Even though a mammography is done with a low radiation dose this could still be harmful to the fetus.

Doctors often suggest that a woman schedule the exam for the week following her last period so that the breasts are less tender. That's because the breasts are placed individually on a plate while another plate compresses the breast for the exam. Usually 2 different views are done on each breast. For women who have had implants the procedure is different. The implants are pushed out of the back and the previous breast tissue pulled forward. Although the procedure for any mammography is not considered painful it is uncomfortable but lasts only a few minutes.

A written report will be sent to your physician explaining the findings of the mammogram. A Category 0 means another tests should be done because the results are inconclusive or there was another problem with the test itself. Category 1 means everything is normal and no additional tests will be required at this time. A Category 2 report means that there were benign findings. A report of a Category 3 means there is an area that possibly needs watched. Your physician might schedule another test in the near future to re-examine the stated area. A Category 4 means there is definitely something that needs to be identified further. It does not mean there is definitely cancer in the breast tissue. In this case the physician might decide that a biopsy is in order. A biopsy consists of some of the tissue being removed, under anesthetic, for further investigation.

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